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"Wait. Are we becoming apprentices today?" Thornkit suddenly grew excited, kneading the ground with his claws.

"We aren't 6 moons yet, we aren't supposed to be apprentices." Rowankit shared the same confusion as the rest of the siblings.

"Why couldn't our parents just tell us what's going on." Thornkit puffed, slumping.

The kits stopped chattering as Mahoganystar commanded attention with a flick of her tail.

"I know this meeting in unexpected but I have an announcement to make. Me, Acorntail, Brightflame, and Sprucefall have discussed this topic for the past few days and have come to an agreement. Since leaf-bare is upon us, training for apprentices needs to start sooner than we anticipated. Their kits will be named apprentices early, so they can start training to become warriors and support the clan."

Shocked murmurs and whispers spread throughout the crowd like a beehive.

"But they're only 5 moons!"

"This would've never happened in my day." An elder grumbled.

"This is breaking the warrior code!" Another shrieked.

"As far as I'm aware, the warrior code states that the word of a leader is the warrior code." Mahoganystar refuted firmly, continuing after every cat settled down.

"..I know this seems unfair to some, but the other clans are getting stronger day by day, and it doesn't help that this leaf-bare is harsher than it was last. We have already lost so many, and we need to regrow. They won't be pushed too far and will be trained accordingly.

The crowd quieted down, speaking to themselves in hushed tones. They still looked disapproving, but Mahoganystar's words were enough to quiet themselves.

Juniperkit tried to ignore the gazes and glances that the other cats gave her. Her pelt felt hot, and she shifted her weight in embarrassment.

I really hope they don't hate me now that I'm going to be an apprentice early. I want to gain everyone's respect...not make them think I'm a spoiled apprentice!

"Thornkit, Rowankit, Aspenkit, and Juniperkit, please come here." Mahoganystar beckoned from the highrock.

Juniperkit gave a glance to her brothers, who were just as shocked as she was. They made their way under the highrock, everyone watching intently.

This is all just so....sudden...

"Juniperkit." Mahoganystar's gaze focused on the young cat. "You are now ready to be apprenticed. From this day on, you will be known as Juniperpaw. Your mentor will be Violetheart. I hope that she will teach you well."

Juniperpaw glanced at the beautiful gray she-cat that stepped forward.

"Violetheart, you are ready to take an apprentice. You have been taught exceptionally well by Brightwhisker and you have shown courage and hunting prowess. I give you Juniperpaw as your apprentice, and I wish for you to pass on all you know to her."

Violetheart dipped her head to Mahoganystar, and touched noses with Juniperpaw briefly.

"I'm honored to be your mentor." She whispered into her ear before blending back into the crowd of cats.

Juniperpaw felt a new sense of pride surge within her.

She watched her brothers one by one receive their apprentice name and their mentors. Aspenpaw got Goosewing, Thornpaw got Brambleberry, and Rowanpaw got Quietstrike.

"We have one more announcement to make." Mahoganystar called out, turning to Brightflame on the highrock. "Brightflame had decided she is retired from being a queen, and will return to warrior duties from here on out."

Juniperpaw looked at her mother, who looked ecstatic from the announcement.
She realized immediately that her melancholic look from before was not about Sprucefall but rather she missed being a warrior.

"That is all." Mahoganystar dipped her head, jumping off the highrock and onto the green grass below.

The crowd dispersed into little groups, chatting about the latter meeting. Juniperpaw knew they were gossiping about her and her siblings, but she didn't want to think about it. It would only make her upset, and she didn't want her apprentice ceremony to be something she badly remembered.

"I'm so proud of you! You're going to be wonderful apprentices!" Sprucefall smiled proudly.

"I can't believe we got to become apprentices early! This is amazing!" Thornpaw said, swishing his tail.

"Don't get too big of a head from it." Brightflame appeared behind her mate. "You're very lucky to get to be apprentices early but it doesn't mean you're better than everyone else. You'll still have to work hard and earn your warrior name just like all the others."

"We will." Aspenpaw mewed.

"Good." Sprucefall purred. "Now go on then. Later tonight you will set for the Mysticpool and StarClan will bless your quest to be a warrior.

"I can't wait! What will StarClan tell us?" Thornpaw asked eagerly, almost bumping into his siblings.

"It is different for each apprentice. And don't go telling others about it, it's supposed to be secret and sacred." Brightflame lectured.

"We understand." Juniperpaw chirped. "Will you accompany us?"

"No. This is a journey you get to make without us. Mahoganystar will guide you there along with a few warriors. I'm sure you'll still have fun." Sprucefall purred to Brightflame and followed the rest of the warriors who Juniperpaw assumed to be going hunting.

Brightflame's tail swished over the short grass. "Go on now. Meet your mentors."

Juniperpaw eyed out the camp, looking for the familiar gray pelt. Violetheart was no ordinary she-cat. She could be spotted several tail-lengths away. She was extraordinarily beautiful, even the elders thought so."

Juniperpaw spotted the she-cat by the fresh-kill pile. She walked over, paws crunching the dead leaves that lay on the forest floor.

Violetheart turned to her, giving her a slight smile. "Hello Juniperpaw."

"It's still so weird being called that name." She chuckled a little, shifting her paws.

"Isn't it? It was weird for me to accustom too. But you'll learn to like your name." Violetheart took a bite of vole as she finished talking.

"I already do, but it's just different is all." Juniperpaw swished her tail.

Violetheart nodded.

"...This might be an odd question. But why don't you have a mate? Every cat thinks you're beautiful. Surely you would've caught someone's attention?"

Violetheart seemed to be taken off-guard for a few moments. "Just because some say I'm beautiful doesn't mean I have to have a mate. I just don't want any attention from toms and I never have.

"That....makes sense. Sorry for asking. I just hear it a lot."

Violetheart sighed. "I know. But they'll learn that someday it isn't their business to get into other cat's affairs." Thankfully, Violetheart chuckled a bit and it cleared up the atmosphere.

"Sorry again. I shouldn't have pried." Juniperpaw sheepishly replied. "I won't do it again.

"Don't worry. It was an interesting question." Violetheart purred. She rested her tail on the apprentice.

Juniperpaw smiled. She felt better about being an apprentice early. Her mentor was so kind and easy to talk to.

I like her already.

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